Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Largemouth Bass in the Grass: What to do When Weeded Over

Largemouth Bass in the Grass:

What to do When Weeded Over

I did fish the eight-inch Chompers over the duckweed at Colonial Park today as mentioned I would, but would have done better with a weedless frog. I had seven strikes and missed all of them. The worm is too long a target for what bass can't see. Several of these fish leapt straight into the air attempting to take it, but I only came close to hooking one.

I'm posting an article on the subject I got published in The Fisherman five or six years ago. Hope it's helpful.

I got a tip that the other pond in Watchung is full of bass. Neither of us had a hit fishing the larger, so my son and I rode up and parked below the embankment, climbed, and saw wall to wall carpeting—not a single pocket of open water. 

I thought we’d been played for a joke, but my son wanted to fish. A couple of weeks before, he bought a package of Mister Twister Hawg Frawgs. I remembered this once I found them in his box as we stood on the bank. An inset hook assured me they would ride over the weed mat.

Hawg Frawgs made trails over duckweed retrieved at a steady medium pace. I wondered how deep the water beneath. I heard a slurping sound, and before I could turn to see my son, he exclaimed, “I got one!” I noticed the bass had hit right near the dam.  

Fertile and Foul

Some ponds, like the one in Watchung, amass fertility to the point of producing huge amounts of vegetation, and these weeds die in the late fall adding more muck to the bottom as they decay. But it turned out the pond in Watchung does have some depth. This I discovered later with the weeds gone. Now that it’s been dredged, it's deeper than ever.

Usually such fertile ponds have combinations of vegetation species in areas of greater and lesser density, with or without open pockets and areas of deeper open water.  Lake Muskenetcong in North Jersey is a 329-acre lake that used to have many large weed mats in the summer, but invasive water chestnuts virtually covered the entire acreage by late in the summer of 2009. Other New Jersey lakes like the Swartswoods have dense mats that cover depths of eight and ten feet, plenty of water for lunker largemouths. (Don’t be too surprised to find them in very shallow, weed covered water.)

Some ponds have shallows covered mostly with an algae mat. If the water quality is good, other vegetation species exist under the algae, and maybe some lily pads grow in the midst of the algae mess. Such combinations of aquatic vegetation provide fish with more cover and possibly forage diversity--choice targets.


How do you approach an ugly mass of algae and take your casting onto it seriously? This time of year, the water may be very warm everywhere, and under bright sun it’s a good bet the biggest bass fin in the shade of some of the densest vegetation, so just imagine they’re there and give this infrequently performed approach a chance.

Largemouths seem to hover just underneath these surface mats, not only around the edges. A big algae mat over a broad shallow flat can produce anywhere, and methodical fan casting is the way to go. In the pond at Watchung, I found the bass seemed to be anywhere: right by the dam, out from it by ten yards, and so on, all up and down along the banks of its three acres. Don’t be too picky about making a plastic frog behave like a frog, although sometimes a bass will short strike, as if the retrieve is just a hair too fast.  Reel in and cast right back out behind the hole left behind from the strike—sometimes a bass will connect the second time the plastic is offered.

On some outings, fishing on top of the weeds is just one strategy among a number of others. On Lake Musconetcong, for a past example, I used to fish the open pockets and weedline edges early, late, and in the rain or thick cloud cover. But a Mann's Phat Rat served the purpose of thick vegetation as the morning wore on. And with sun overhead, fishing right on top of the weeds anywhere may yield a few stubborn fish. It’s much the same on the Swartswoods. While the heat of the day suggests fishing a plastic worm along deep weedlines, a big bass may explode right through algae mats over two or three feet of water.

Lily pad circles or fields amid other weeds, or other combinations that catch the eye, tend to attract largemouth, too, as I've mentioned. Always fish combinations of vegetation and other structures like deadfalls, stumps, or submerged boulders. But don’t get stuck in your idea of where the bass should be. Give an honest, thorough effort to the spot you’re fishing, then move on.

Lures and Retrieves

Two basic choices: plastics like Senkos, traditional plastic worms, and Hawg Frawgs, all rigged with inset hooks, and soft plastic weedless surface lures like Scum Frogs, Phat Rats, Phat Frogs, Snag Proof Frogs, and the Laker Mouse. Don’t weight your worms or Hawg Frawgs unless you want them to fall through small pockets. A large split shot at the eye of the hook does that—or a tungsten bullet weight especially. A steady medium retrieve over a mat usually does the trick and covers water.  But if you’re not getting action, make the retrieve erratic, but teasingly so. Bass may blast the weed mat and leave holes two feet wide behind.


I fish on the light side because it affords better casting range and I prefer the smaller lures. Some would think it nuts to fish with six-pound test in weed mats for bass, but I’ve hustled some fairly big ones out. Nevertheless, as a rule, these situations demand 15-pound test quality braid, and I've never gone back to fishing too light for what a really big bass would require.  A medium power rod at the least--fast action--gives the advantage of quick and firm response to a hit. Set the hook after a pause when the hit comes.


Bass tend to come out to the edge of open water early and late, in the rain, or under thick clouds. But during the day under sunlit heat, the weed mats can be the best place to fish.  There are those exceptions, like the pond in Watchung, where no matter what the weather, a weed mat extends from shore to shore, and all four corners. The Phat Rat is good in the rain on Lake Muskenetcong and the Swartswoods because it can be maneuvered over the weeds and through small open pockets where standard topwaters will foul.

It may seem counterintuitive that a fish situates underneath the thick turf and can blast through it to a lure on top, but you may find they blast basket holes through the stuff.

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